Reading guide for The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Swan Thieves

by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2010, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2010, 592 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. At the beginning of Chapter 2, psychiatrist Andrew Marlow confesses that the story he is going to tell is “not only private but subject to my imagination as much as to the facts.” In what ways does this prove to be true, in the course of the book? How does Marlow’s imagination affect the telling of his own story?

  2. Each of the artists in the book—Robert, Marlow, Mary, Kate, Béatrice, and Olivieris faced with choices between art and personal life. What are some of these dilemmas, and how does each character resolve or at least experience them?

  3. In Chapter 64, at their painting conference in Maine, Mary says to Robert, “‘I have the feeling that if I knew why you were still painting the same thing after so many years, then I would know you. I would know who you are.” Why does Robert paint Béatrice for years and how does his obsession with her shape his artwork? What other obsessions appear in the course of the book, in Robert and in other characters?

  4. Landscapes play an important role in The Swan Thieves, both in life and on canvas. What are the major landscapes of the book, and what effect do they have on the characters? 5. In Chapter 95, just before Marlow flies to Paris to learn more about Béatrice de Clerval, Mary tells him, “‘Please just let her die properly, the poor woman.’” What does she mean by this? Why is it important to her?

  5. The Swan Thieves is partly a study of love that bridges gaps across time and age—passion, mentoring, parenting. Which characters have these relationships? What do the old, or older, characters have to offer the younger ones? What do the younger ones offer their elders?

  6. At many points in the story, artists paint or sketch one another. What are these occasions and how is each significant to the story?

  7. In Étretat, as she considers her relationship with Olivier, Béatrice realizes that whatever happens between them “she must effect herself and live with later.” Is this true of other characters’ experiences? In what senses?

  8. The myth of Leda and the Swan surfaces repeatedly in the narrative. Where do we encounter it and what is its significance in each of the main characters’ lives? What other swans make an appearance in the book?

  9. Kate says of her second meeting with Robert Oliver, “His apparent unawareness of himself was mesmerizing.” What else mesmerizes other people about Robert? Why do some of the other characters find him compelling?

  10. On leaving the National Gallery at the end of Chapter 7, Marlow notes “that mingled relief and disappointment one feels on departure from a great museum—relief at being returned to the familiar, less intense, more manageable world, and disappointment at that world’s lack of mystery.” What museums appear in the novel? Is Marlow’s craving for mystery ultimately satisfied by museums or by “the world,” and in what ways?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Back Bay Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Falling
    by Jane Green

    "Readers who enjoy a love story with heart will adore this tale of homecoming and transformation." - LJ

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!